India’s former foreign minister Sushma Swaraj dies

She was the most prominent woman in India's Bharatiya Janata Party

FILE - In this April 21, 2012, file photo, Indian lawmaker Sushma Swaraj speaks during a press conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Former Indian foreign minister Swaraj passed away in a New Delhi hospital on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019. She was 67. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe, File)
Powered by automated translation

Former Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj died of a heart attack on Tuesday, aged 67.

Reports say that at 10.15pm local time, she was rushed to hospital in Delhi and immediately admitted to the emergency ward. Senior politicians also arrived at the hospital.

Swaraj was a veteran and senior leader of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party. She was the second woman to hold the office in India's history.

Her last Twitter post, at 7pm on Tuesday, thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the government’s decision to abolish Kashmir autonomy, saying she had been waiting for that day all of her life.

Last November, Swaraj announced that she would not contest the general elections because of health problems. She was an acute diabetic, underwent a kidney transplant in 2016 and had to visit hospital several times since.

She was regarded as one of Mr Modi’s main political challengers in the first few months of his leadership, before she settled into the role of external affairs minister.

Mr Modi paid tribute to Swaraj on Twitter, describing her death as "a personal loss".

"A glorious chapter in Indian politics comes to an end," he tweeted. "India grieves the demise of a remarkable leader who devoted her life to public service and bettering lives of the poor.

"Sushma Swaraj Ji was one of her kind, who was a source of inspiration for crores of people."

Tributes to Swaraj also came from prominent figures in film and music.

“India has lost its extraordinary leader, minister and personality. May God bless her soul," Bollywood actor Arjun Kapur said on Twitter.

Singer Sophie Chaudry tweeted: "Extremely sad to hear of the demise of Sushma Swaraj. An absolute powerhouse yet she seemed so warm and humble.

"Poised and dignified, she was a leader I admired. Thank you for all your years of service to this nation. Rest in Peace."

Swaraj visited the UAE in February, where she joined Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, to inaugurate the Gandhi-Zayed Digital Museum.

The inauguration marked the 100th birth anniversary of the UAE's Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed, and the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

She also visited the UAE for two days as external affairs minister last December.